Is this the True Story of the Post-Death Appearances of Jesus?

Christians are confused, insulted, and even infuriated that skeptics do not accept the list of eyewitnesses to the bodily resurrection of Jesus, as listed in the Early Creed quoted by Paul in First Corinthians chapter 15, as historically reliable.  “Do skeptics think that the early Christians would make this list up?  The early Christians were risking their lives by preaching this stuff!  That makes no sense!”

Most skeptics accept the early dating of the Creed, and, most skeptics do not believe that early Christians just made up this list of eyewitnesses.  Most skeptics believe that early Christians sincerely believed that they had seen the resurrected Jesus.  However, we skeptics believe that the most probable explanation for this belief is not a miraculous, once in history resurrection, but some natural phenomenon, or collection of phenomena, which the early Christians innocently confused for a miracle.

Some Christians demand that we skeptics give evidence for any alternative explanation for the early Christian resurrection belief, but we skeptics are under no obligation to prove an extra-ordinary claim to be false nor are we under any obligation to provide evidence for any one naturalistic explanation.   The onus is on Christians to provide the evidence for their extra-ordinary claim, and, to demonstrate that all possible naturalistic explanations are impossible.   If even one naturalistic cause is possible to explain the event, and it can be shown that this naturalistic cause has happened more than just once in human history, then by simple mathematics, a naturalistic explanation is more probable than a once in history miracle resurrection.

So what possibly gave rise to the early Christian belief in the post-death appearances of a resurrected Jesus?  Here is one possible scenario:

The chief disciple, Peter, has a vivid dream, or a trance, in which Jesus appears to him and tells him that he has been resurrected by the power of God and shows him his wounds as proof.  The next day, Peter announces to the disciples that Jesus has been resurrected and that Jesus has appeared to him!  The disciples who had been in deep despair since the sudden death of their leader are jolted with excitement bordering on hysteria.  Soon several other disciples receive similar appearances by Jesus in dreams or trances.  And shortly thereafter as the Twelve (including Matthias) are sitting on a hillside, a bright light appears at the top of the hill.  It is so bright it is blinding.  It takes the shape of a cross then it disappears! 

“It was Jesus!  He has just appeared to the Twelve!”

 A few weeks later, a similar phenomenon happens to a group of five hundred believers!

And it is these events upon with the Early Creed is based, and from which, many decades later, embellished stories of groups of women coming to an empty tomb, multiple earthquakes, multiple celestial beings, and multiple dead saints roaming the streets of a major city, emerge to give us the Gospels.


7 thoughts on “Is this the True Story of the Post-Death Appearances of Jesus?

  1. Gary

    I have been reading your blogs and you are an inspiration. I have struggled with trying to believe in Christianity for a while now – nobody wants to go to hell right! But the more I read your blogs the more confidence I have in myself as a non religious realist. Of course religion in general, and Christianity in particular, is complete and utter bull; I'm sure deep down the vast majority of people think that. However, with the punishment for non believers being so severe – ie an eternity being roasted in a furnace – it is a very difficult thing for many people to reject. By reading your blogs I am getting stronger and stronger and my human feelings and rational thinking are winning the day! Thank you for all you do. One day we will be rid of this dreadful thing called religion.


  2. THANK YOU very much for your comment, friend! Sometimes I get the feeling no one is reading this blog anymore and that my posts are a waste of my time.

    You are absolutely correct. Leaving Christianity is not like leaving the Rotary Club. No one from the Rotary Club is going to show up at your front door to toss you into a pit of eternal darkness (with the possibility of being roasted on a spit in literal flames) just because you tore up your Rotary membership card!

    It is a fear based belief system, no matter how Christians try to spin it.

    Any person (or divine being) who commands you to love him and will torture you in some sense for eternity if you don't, is a sick sadist.

    The Christian religion, as well as Islam, as well as Judaism, as well as Hinduism, etc. are all ancient superstitions created by those in power to intimidate the ignorant masses to do as they say…or…the Big Boogeyman, “God”, is going to getcha!


  3. I am from the UK. A couple of months ago I stumbled upon a blog you wrote back in July 2014 about eternal damnation in hell. What you said really hit home to me. You put in words much of what I had been thinking for some time – but daren't admit to myself. I really struggled with the idea of how anybody could sleep at night if they genuinely thought that another human being was going to spend the whole of eternity being consciously tortured in a fire. But at the same time, deep down, I was scared. I don't like labels but if I had to put a label to myself now I would say I'm a humanist. I love people – full stop. Even if I thought Hitler was going to be punished in a fire for eternity it would make me feel sick.

    I have read many of your historical blogs over the past few weeks and your journey out of Christianity and into rational and free thought inspires me. I am sure there are many thousands of people like me who will have have stumbled upon your story and read your blogs. Believe me, you have helped me tremendously. I am not a particularly intelligent or academic person and I have nothing like the knowledge and articulation that you possess, however, what you say really hits home with me. Thank you very much my fellow human being and friend.


  4. No problem mate. Just referring to what you said in your first comment about wondering whether people are still reading your blog…….well, I wouldn't take a lack of comments as evidence that people aren't reading your blog. From what I have seen, after reading a selection of your blogs dating back to when you first started to really question your faith back in June/July 2014, there is a gradual decline in comments from religious people. But I see that as a sign that they just don't know what to say in reply to your continued analysis and searching questions.

    They are reverting to closing their eyes, putting their fingers in their ears and saying 'lalalalalalalalalalalalala I can't hear you!'

    I am trying not to get obsessed with this religious thing. As an ex Church of England liberal Christian (with an irrational fear of a literal hell), my journey to de-conversion seems a simpler path than yours. Anybody going from devout American fundamental conservative Christian, to being non religious has my absolute respect. It is only in the last few years that I realised just how fundamental and hard lined many Americans were about religion. Honest, this realisation was mind blowing for me!

    When I have my moments of fear (you know, of the dark side!) I like to visit blogs such as yours and give myself a big slurp of common sense rational thinking medicine! At other times, I really try to not let religion interfere with my life. I live within the laws and moral rules of society.

    All the very best to you!


  5. I have said this before but I truly believe that the Internet is the doom of Religion, at least traditional Religion. Concepts such as ghost-impregnated virgins, water-walking, and fiery torture pits at the center of the earth will soon die out as the light of Reason and Science, through the medium of the Internet, shine their light into the dark crevices of theism and expose it for the superstitious nonsense it really is.

    We SHALL overcome, my friend!


  6. In 1 Cor 15, Peter is said to have the first vision of Jesus, but no details are given.

    In Mark 16, there is an expectation that Jesus would make a special surprise appearance to Peter in Galilee. In John 21, a special Galilean appearance to Peter is narrated during a fishing trip, but it’s not considered to be the first appearance to the apostles. In the Gospel of Peter, Peter seems to be the first of the apostles to see Jesus, and this event is on a Galilean fishing trip similar to what’s in John 21. The sea of Galilee would be a few days’ journey from Jerusalem, suggesting that this was some days after Easter Sunday.

    In Luke 24, however, Jesus shows up for his apostles on Easter Sunday or that evening, and right before He does, the apostles announce that Peter had seen Jesus. This suggests that Peter saw Jesus on Easter Sunday within several miles of Jerusalem.

    I am not aware of any other accounts of Peter’s special appearance to Jesus, but it’s a very interesting question for me what this would have been.


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